Manchester City against Chelsea is one of the biggest matches of the English football calendar these days, and even though we’re barely in December, the outcome of Saturday’s game could have a big impact on the season.
A win for City would move them 13 points clear of Chelsea and almost certainly end any remaining hopes Maurizio Sarri’s side have of winning the title. However, a Chelsea win would turn things around and if Liverpool won their early kick-off at Bournemouth, would see Pep Guardiola’s men drop down to second.
Guardiola has plenty to think about in terms of team selection, and we’ve tried to predict the XI he might go with.
The bad news from Guardiola’s press conference is that Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne both miss out. This isn’t unsurprising after stories this week, but City are missing two of their big dogs for one of the tough away games of the season, and KDB was the difference-maker last year.
Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo remain on the shelf, but Oleksandr Zinchenko appears in contention to play again after his nose had a meeting with Fernandinho’s elbow last weekend.
Can Ederson keep another clean sheet at Stamford Bridge like last season? That would be great and he’ll start between the sticks.
At the back, don’t expect many surprises from Guardiola. Kyle Walker will retain his place at right-back, while the Aymeric Laporte and John Stones partnership will return in the middle, after recent outings for Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany. Left-back is the dilemma for Guardiola, with Fabian Delph disappointing against Watford, but let’s not forget how good he was in this fixture last season. It’s a tough one but we’ll go for the experience of Fabian Delph getting the nod over Zinchenko.
In midfield, there can only be Fernandinho in the ‘6’ role, and he’ll be joined by David Silva and Bernardo Silva. Guardiola could throw a curveball by starting Ilkay Gundogan, a man with a habit of scoring in big matches, but we see the Silva duo in Pep’s XI.
The toughest decision will be who to play out of Sterling, Sané and Mahrez – or all of them? Mahrez was the Man of the Match against Watford, and yet Raheem and Leroy have been even better overall this season. We’re going for Pep to start two of them and that will be Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané. It seems incredibly unfair on Mahrez if this happens, but that’s the drawback of having the best collection of wingers in world football.
With Sergio Aguero absent, Guardiola has just one traditional striker and that is goal-shy Gabriel Jesus. Sterling as a false nine is definitely an option, but despite Jesus’ lack of goals, Pep heavily values his contribution to the team and he was excellent in this fixture last season. What a time it would be for the Brazilian to end his Premier League goal drought!
On the bench: Aro Muric, Danilo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez.